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Nets 109, Knicks 99: “I’m just going to remember the first quarter (plus Mitch)”

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Good plan.

NBA: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I wish I had a really cool analogy or metaphor to lead in with here — I have pretty big shoes to fill with recapper extraordinaire MMiranda off tonight.

But, look, if there’s one thing I’ve learned how to do over the years, it’s to be accepting. In this case, I’m accepting of the fact that I don’t have the seemingly endless and accessible-on-a-dime inventory of brilliant social, political, pop culture and literary knowledge of my brilliant co-worker that I can somehow turn into a Knicks-related thing.

And... hey! Look! I’m doing it! Kinda. Because, you see, this Knicks season has taught me to accept these many losses. Tonight was no different, really, except that it kinda stung a bit to lose to the cross-town Nets and cede what will surely be a few scathing back page headlines tomorrow. But ultimately, this season doesn’t matter in the wins and losses column (or, at least not in the wins column). We just need to grab onto the good moments and hold on tight.

Most of those good moments came in a blistering 37-point first quarter tonight, led by Noah Vonleh’s 14-point domination of the Nets’ starters (he wound up going for a career-high 22 points with 13 rebounds and three assists).

But it wasn’t just Noah getting it done! Frank Ntilikina drew a surprise start after it was announced earlier that Emmanuel Mudiay will miss a couple of weeks with a shoulder strain. And, early on at least, he made the most of it:

Four points and four assists in the first had Knicks fans dreaming of a potential double-double for the Frenchman. Unfortunately, a very Mitchell Robinson-esque six fouls in 18 minutes squashed that idea, and Frank was never quite able to get that same flow back to his game with the sporadic, foul-induced shortage of playing time the rest of the way out.

The Knicks still were playing well through the second quarter, though, pushing the lead to as much as 11, thanks to some resurgent play from Trey Burke. Unfortunately, the caveat of switching Ntilikina out for Burke is that you’re bound to give up at least as many points as Burke produces for you on offense, even when he’s at his best.

And, predictably, once Burke was no longer shooting nuclear and simply normal, that 11-point lead faded and the Knicks entered halftime tied with the Nets at 60 apiece.

Burke continued getting some buckets, but unfortunately, so did the Nets’ bench. Theo Pinson and Shabazz Napier scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, and the Brooklyn bench dropped 72 on the Knicks’ dome. Napier, in particular, shot like shit (3-13), but was given 12 opportunities at the line due to shoddy perimeter D.

Yada yada yada, the Knicks lost. Can I talk about Mitch Robinson now?

So, let me introduce you to this kid, if you’re not familiar:

Mitch was everywhere tonight. He did everything. He was so damn fun to watch every time he was anywhere near the ball. Main reason for that? He managed to only foul twice tonight in 15 minutes, a marked improvement from his recent 18-ish minute foul outs. And thus, a Mitch Robinson free from the confines of foul pressure was unleashed upon the Nets, and he wreaked havoc:

His numbers (other than the four blocks, to go with six points and four rebounds) won’t hop off the page at you, but his play certainly will. In particular, this play defied convention to me:

I remember, like, 10-plus years ago, I was watching the NFL Pro Bowl (why, I do not know). Michael Vick was in the game, and as a lefty, he was running towards the right sideline and threw a pinpoint pass in the opposite direction that his body was moving. The announcers gushed over it for a solid 2-3 minutes due to the sheer physical difficulty of a throw like that. That particular block by Mitch was similar to that, but probably even more difficult because it happened in mid-air, and Mitch made it look super easy.

I think we’ve got a real player on our hands here.

So sayeth commenter Paint The Court Blue, “I’m just going to remember the first quarter (plus Mitch).” (Parenthetical my own. Impossible to forget Mitch tonight!)

Notes:

D’Angelo Russell wanted nothing to do with Frank Ntilikina’s defense tonight. MSG ran a graphic at one point that showed that, going into tonight, Russell had scored six points on SEVENTY-FOUR possessions being guarded by Frank. The NBA Stats video clips are missing a few attempts, but I’m fairly certain he didn’t even attempt a shot against Frank all night. I guess we’ll see once the tracking numbers come out tomorrow. Either way, cool to see that Frank’s D has at least one player in the NBA scared shitless before the opening tip even goes down.

Allonzo Trier has really been finding himself again recently, and he shot a solid 4-6 (2-2 from three) for 13 points to continue that trend. His minutes with Mitch have easily been the most entertaining of them all — those two really have something going on right now. It’s going to be really nice when Mitch’s foul troubles are in the rearview mirror long-term and we can get 20-25 minutes of these two together consistently.

Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with a rather uggers 2-14 shooting line, but I actually liked what I was seeing from him to start the game. Tim was getting to the rim and taking his lumps there, and even if he wasn’t converting those attempts, that was a large part of Jarrett Allen getting into early foul trouble for the Nets. Unfortunately, he reverted to chucking for most of the game thereafter. Disappointing after he had just put on a couple of decent performances before this one and seemed like maybe he was getting his groove back.

— You’d be hard-pressed to find a Frank Ntilikina sequence that slaps harder than this one:

D’Angelo Russell: “YESSS, I got a switch onto Hardaway, let me just dance on into the paint here... Oh, look, it’s Kur—oh no!!! FRANK!!!”

— It felt like kind of a slap in the face for the Nets to wear the Biggie uniforms against the Knicks. And like, I know that’s probably what they were going for, but still. Biggie’s for all of us. Plus, a Net was never in a Biggie song (RIP on both counts).

— I drew kind of a weird pleasure from both Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas getting minutes tonight while Enes Kanter was glued to the bench.

— Does Jarrett Allen wear a ninja headband that ties in the back? I think he does. It’s a shame he’s a Net, because he seems like an interesting cat.

— Allen, by the way, did not have the sauce to guard Vonleh tonight. Noah abused the Net center a number of times, including this memorable one:

— I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be, but Rebecca Haarlow dropped kind of a slick little Brooklyn/NJ burn when talking to Knicks assistant coach Jud Buechler. She was asking about the old classic NJ Nets jerseys from back in the day when Buechler started his NBA career there in the early 90s. Becky goes at the beginning of the interview, “You started your career here... in New Jersey.” I just love when people still call them the New Jersey Nets.

Rodions Kurucs seems pretty good.

— The Knicks had 31 personal fouls tonight. That’s a lot of fouls. The refs certainly did not swallow their whistles tonight. What’s the opposite of that? They barfed up their whistles?

— I think Kevin Knox is finally hitting the rookie wall after that long stretch of playing a gazillion minutes per game. The rook shot 2-11 and had five fouls. I know he’s young and whatever, but I’d consider giving the kid a rest day to recharge his batteries. Just keep him away from the Fortnite. Speaking of...

— Not too many Clyde-isms in this one, and normally I keep an ear to the ground for them. Clyde did apparently learn about what a “fortnight” is (it’s two weeks) recently from watching Wimbledon, and used it to describe Trey Burke’s fortnight-long absence from the court for the Knicks. This then devolved into a discussion about the video game Fortnite, and I’m not entirely sure that Clyde knows what Fortnite is, other than that the kids these days are into it.

That’s all I got, folks. See you guys on Sunday.